BMW has given Alpina an excellent canvas here, and it’s one upon which the trimmers in Buchloe work only lightly.
The most obvious addition for the B3 is the ultra-supple Lavalina leather (Bavarian and preserved without salt) stitched around the steering rim and airbag cover. It gives the driving environment an immediate lift, and Alpina’s optional CNC-milled aluminium paddle shifters, first seen on the old B4 S Edition 99, add to the rich tactility of the controls.
Alpina has also reskinned BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional instrument display in a fetching shade of blue with green highlights, although at least one tester was disappointed to find that the marque’s classic blue analogue dials, with their crisp orange needles, have now been consigned to history.
Where you go from here depends on your tastes and your budget. As standard, the B3 is fitted with BMW’s new generation of sports seats, which are well bolstered and trimmed in both Alcantara and a man-made Sensatec. The next rung up the ladder is Vernasca leather, although our car’s seats go still one better and are swathed in Merino leather, which is well worth the £1900 outlay.
Spend more and the dashboard can also be trimmed in Merino, for an overall effect that feels more 7 Series than 3 Series. It’s then possible to have the entire cabin upholstered in Lavalina, but to do so requires extraordinarily deep pockets and so is usually the preserve of the B5 Bi-Turbo or flagship Alpina B7 saloon. As for the hard surfaces, piano black is standard, although aluminium is a no-cost option and it’s possible to specify various rustic-feeling woods, including oak, maple and ash.
As for equipment, the B3 is well provisioned, just like its predecessor. However, our test car benefits from several useful cost options, and we would budget in the region of £5000 for a memorable level of opulence.
As for practicalities, the Touring’s 1510 litres of luggage space with the rear bench folded (at the touch of a button) betters that of alternatives from Mercedes, Audi and even Volvo. For more in this department, you’d have to upgrade into the realm of the Audi RS6, Mercedes-AMG E63 or B5 Bi-Turbo Touring. And as you’ll now discover, the same very much applies for performance.
Alpina B3 Touring infotainment and sat-nav
The B3 uses an Alpina-specific version of BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional, which pairs a 12.3in digital instrument display (featuring blue highlights) with a 10.3in central touchscreen that can also be controlled intuitively using the rotary controller atop the transmission tunnel.
Except for some menu options, such as one to set the tyre pressure monitor for high-speed driving, the system is identical to that in high-specification BMW models and therefore the best in this class. The graphics are especially crisp, and the fact that BMW has resisted the temptation to do away with physical switchgear for volume and the climate controls makes this an easy and safe system to use on the move.
Surprisingly, DAB radio is a £268 option and wireless charging for smartphones costs an extra £420. Apple CarPlay is also by subscription, although one year is included with the purchase of the car. However, Alpina does include Parking Assistant, which consists of Park Distance Control, front and rear, as well as Reversing Assistant and a rear-view camera. The B3 doesn’t feel awkwardly big, but these are still useful tools.